Some thoughts on photography

1. Some pictures pull me in. I can’t stop looking at them. Or I keep going back and looking again. I can’t identify exactly what it is that has that effect on me. It’s always different.
2. Post processing (PP) doesn’t matter. People obviously have different taste when it comes to PP. Some pictures attract my attention just because of the way they’re processed, and others immediately turn me off because of the PP. But, if a picture falls in the above category, i.e. one that pulls me in, then the processing is essentially meaningless. HDR, high key, low key, blurry, color, B&W, none of that matters if the picture speaks to me somehow.
3. Subject matter isn’t that important. It’s true that I’ll look at pictures of cats and girls, but the pictures that really work for me can be of just about anything. It’s not necessarily the subject that makes the image, but what’s going on in the image that makes the subject interesting. Like they say, it’s about the story. And that story has to happen in my head in order for me to like the image.
4. Sometimes shapes and patterns work, sometimes they don’t. Apparently formulas are best avoided.
5. People are one of the best, and most difficult subjects. As a corollary to #3, a snap of a naked chick will always get my attention. But, the pictures of nudes that I actually like as good images are very rare. Pictures that are set up or posed never work for me. Candid is always better, but catching a candid shot that works is very difficult. You basically have to be lucky. Nothing wrong with luck, as long as it’s good luck.
6. It’s almost impossible to take a bad cat picture. Like sex and pizza, even when they’re not that good, they’re still not that bad.
7. Every single photo exists because someone decided to point a camera at something and push the button. Whether or not that inspiration comes across in the picture can determine whether or not you are attracted to a picture. But the lesson in this for me is, instead of just looking at the world with your eyes, seeing how things look, you also need to be tuned in to how things make you feel when you see them. The trick then becomes to capture that feeling in an image. If you can look at that image later and bring that feeling back, then that is a successful image. It doesn’t matter if anyone else ever gets it, if it works for you, then it works.
8. Photography should be fun. If you enjoy taking pictures and you like the pictures you take, then you’ve won. It doesn’t matter if anyone else ever likes any of your pictures, or if anyone ever even sees any of your pictures. Look at Vivian Maier. She shot for nearly 50 years without sharing her work with other people. She simply loved what she did, and apparently that was enough.
9. Thinking about photography is not the same as doing photography. Instead of making lists, I should be out shooting.

The next step

So I’ll be 66 in a few weeks. I have formally retired from my job, but I’m still doing the same work, just doing it at home instead of commuting to the office every day. This doesn’t really provide me with more free time than I had before, but it’s certainly less stressful and since they pay me for my time, I can still afford a few luxuries, like food and a place to live.

I’ve been trying to spend more time taking pictures, and I think it’s working, at least partially. The idea is not just to take pictures, but to get out of the house and get a little exercise every day. Not that I actually get out every day, but at least that’s the goal. With any luck, I might even get a snap or two that I can post here on my blog. No promises, but I’ll do my best.

The Scientific Method

The scientific method involves making observations and conducting experiments. Having always wanted to be a scientist, I decided to test the hypothesis that having more gear makes you better at something. I started with guitars. After acquiring more than 30 of them, I came to the conclusion that regardless of how many I had or how high in quality they were, having more guitars did not improve my playing at all. In fact, I’ve gotten worse, but that may be partly due to a lack of practice and arthritis in the hands.

So I decided to do more testing with cameras. I chose Fuji cameras to do the testing with and settled on 3 cameras, X100, X100T and X-T1, to use for the test. My initial conclusion was that there appeared to be no direct relationship between the number of cameras I had and my ability to take good pictures with them. However, wanting to be a good scientist and be thorough in my testing, I went out and bought 4 more bodies: X-M1, X-A2, X-Pro1 and X-E1. Now that I have a body for each lens that I own, I am able to conclude that having more cameras is in no way proportional to my ability to take pictures with them. In fact, the opposite might be true because I have added an additional complication in that going out to shoot now involves an additional step of choosing which camera to take with me, occasionally resulting in a decision to just say “Screw it!” and go out with no camera at all.

You might ask what have I learned from all this? Good question. And the answer is, not a damn thing! Now here I sit with 20 something guitars, 7 Fuji cameras, and no money. I suppose it could be argued that I would have been better off using the money I spent on guitars and cameras on something more tangible. And in retrospect, that appears to be a good argument. However, hindsight is always easier than foresight, and now that I’ve blown all my money on stuff that I can’t even use, the only choice I’m left with is to try to do something with the stuff I have. Now there’s a novel idea!

But you know what they say about best-laid plans, and there are complications in the wind that may very well throw the proverbial monkey wrench into my nice little collection of cameras. As I’m writing this, rumor (all but verified) has it that Fuji will be announcing some new cameras in the near future. A new smaller body version of the X100 series, called the X70, looks very interesting. A virtual pocket camera version of the X100 with a somewhat wider lens. And for a lower price than the X100’s. Very tempting. And of particular interest is the rumored X-Pro2, a new high-spec version of the now classic X-Pro1 with a new X-Trans III sensor sporting 24 mega pickles, albeit with a correspondingly high price. And later in the year, a new X-T2 which will almost certainly have the new multi-mega-pickle sensor. What’s a poor scientist to do?

Retirement?

I turned 65 this year, and since I can’t afford to retire, I have decided to leave the employ of the company I’ve been working at for 28 years and become a freelancer. I’ll finally be out from under the corporate yoke and able to spread my wings, or whatever is left of them.

It may be that I’m simply shifting the workload and stress from one foot to the other, out of the frying pan and into the fire so to speak, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to reduce both the workload and the stress and be able to relax a bit and spend some time doing the things I love to do, without worrying -so much- about the job.

I have enjoyed playing the guitar and taking pictures for many years, but finding the time to do these things in a full time work schedule has not been easy. Even when there is time, I often find myself too tired and sore to go out with a guitar or camera, so I end up at home on the sofa, watching reruns on TV.

I’m looking forward to spending my waning years with a reduced, or eliminated, workload, and taking the time whenever I want to enjoy my hobbies without needing to get back to the computer to do some work. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but here goes nothing. Wish me luck.

Old me

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I joke about being old, but at some point it stops being a joke and becomes reality. The aches and pains start, your health starts to deteriorate, nothing works the way it used to, and it goes downhill from there. So at some point it becomes important to start considering what’s important in your life and what you want to be doing from now on, while you still can. For me playing the guitar is what I have done for most of my life, and it’s something that I want to continue to do for as long as I can. That may mean early retirement so I’ll have more time to practice and perform, and if that’s the case, then that’s what I’ll do. Gotta have some fun while I still can!